The magic of intuition
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. – Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)
Those words by the great master of relativity still ring true till this very day. Many if not all of our academic institutions run on logic and reason, emphasizing that way of thinking almost to the exclusion of all others. To be fair, logical reasoning has helped us accomplish a great deal. A lot of the infrastructure (such as the transportation and communication systems) that we have built and refined over many decades were implemented using a heavy dose of logical reasoning. As we saw the benefits that our logical reasoning powers brought to our world, we came to see logic as far superior to intuition. Almost to the point now where most of us either don’t know what intuition is, or scoff at it as “new age bollocks”.
Despite being viewed with a fair bit of disdain by many factions of our society, human intuition has its “fingerprints” on some of our most astounding discoveries and breakthroughs. I’m continually amazed by the sheer number of luminaries who have openly ascribed their success to a heavy reliance on intuition. Even more puzzling is the fact that some of these luminaries are/were involved in fields of endeavor that are heavily based on rational thought. I’m with you… on the surface, it seems strange that intuition would somehow be critical to scientific discovery so let’s look a little deeper to see if we can make sense of this weirdness. Let’s start our journey to a better understanding of this seeming paradox by agreeing on a definition of human intuition.
Intuition can be defined as the ability to immediately understand something without the need for conscious reasoning. You can think of it as the human version of that “sixth sense” that animals have. You know how your cat seems to always find a way to land on its feet regardless of what awkward position it fell from? Yup… the human equivalent of that spooky ability is what we are talking about here. If you have ever suddenly had a bad feeling about someone you barely knew without knowing why or where it came from, or had your mom call you out of the blue during a hellacious week because she somehow knew you were in trouble, you have experienced intuition. There are usually no describable steps that lead to an intuitive insight… they usually just happen out of the blue for most of us. When people experience intuitive flashes of insight, they usually just know the answer to whatever problem they are facing without really knowing how they know.
There are many historical figures with highly developed intuitive senses. Of the sizable pool of them, two stand out as personal favorites. Allow me to share some relevant parts of their life stories with you…
Prior to his 27th year on planet earth, young Einstein was largely thought of as a lazy man with poor working world prospects. He barely did well enough to earn his PhD and the mediocrity of his scholastic career made it nigh impossible for him to find a decent job as a Professor. After much struggle, he eventually found work as a lowly patent clerk in the Swiss patent office in Bern. At the patent office, Albert found he could easily complete his daily tasks because he had a special knack for quickly picking out the legitimate inventions from the daily pile of patent applications. This gave Albert the free time to ponder the physics paradoxes that had bothered him as a student. He would frequently spend multiple hours each day lost in an almost meditative state of thought as he wrestled with these problems. If nothing else, Albert was stubbornly persistent when it came to solving problems that he was interested in.
Even the stubbornly persistent Albert Einstein eventually grew weary of thinking about these physics paradoxes as he didn’t seem to be making much progress. After many years of frustrating intellectual struggle and numerous conversations with a few close friends, he simply decided to give up. He was convinced that the solutions to these paradoxes were beyond him. Albert went to sleep that night a defeated man, certain he would be confined to the life of a patent clerk. A little while later, while Albert was commiserating with a friend about his life circumstances and the problem that had so thoroughly defeated him, he suddenly understood the answer to the problem that had baffled him for years. He still had to go through a lot of mathematical rigor to vet his intuitive insight, but the answer came to him like a bolt of lightning out of the blue. This and the many other instances of intuitive insight that Albert Einstein experienced throughout his career prompted him to make the following statement about the importance of his intuition. “The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it Intuition or what you will, the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why.”
When it comes to superstardom in the musical realm, few acts ever reach the same heights of fame and acclaim that the Beatles did in their heyday. One of the most prominent members of the band – Paul McCartney – has a popular story about their hit song “yesterday” that nicely illustrates the machinations of the intuitive mind.
In 1965, a twenty something year old Paul McCartney woke up from sleep on a typical London morning humming a tune. Like most serious musicians, he hurried over to the piano and immediately recorded the tune to be sure he wouldn’t forget it. For a while after this initial flash of insight, Paul was worried that he had subconsciously plagiarized this tune from someone else… a phenomenon known as cryptomnesia. So he actually spent a fair bit of time playing the recording for a number of people in the music business, asking them if they had heard the song before. When he had done this enough times and no one claimed it, it dawned on him that he had experienced a bit of magic from his intuitive mind. He spent the next few months developing the tune until it turned into the well known Beatles song – “yesterday”.
Many of us have been conditioned to believe that the sole reason for our dominance of this planet is the existence of our rational minds. The examples above as well as countless others which point out the power of the intuitive mind seem to throw a wrench in that theory. Everything you see around you that is really bold, beautiful, and forward thinking started with a vision or an idea. I used to think that those ideas came from our brains but after years of educating myself and gathering experience, I now know that the really forward thinking and innovative ideas come from outside our heads. It is usually a quiet calm voice that comes to you out of the blue and tells you what you should be doing in a very matter of fact tone. It is important to note that your intuition is not the neurotic chatter that might dominate your mind in times of nervousness and fear. The intuition doesn’t shout, yell, or argue. It doesn’t spend time trying to justify itself to you… it just tells you what you should be doing or working towards in each moment. Although I barely have 4 years of experience playing the electric guitar at the time of writing this, I sometimes get a flash of insight during a solo that “tells” me exactly what I need to do next. When it happens, I completely submerge my ego and do what it tells me to do even though I haven’t the faintest clue where it came from. Unfailingly, I find that these suggestions from my intuition are always better than anything I could have come up with. In my opinion, the intuition is a broadband connection to the seat of all knowledge irrespective of time and space. I mean how else could Leo Da Vinci have come up with blueprints for a helicopter 500 years before it was actually possible to build one?
In conclusion, there is a power that we all have access to which is much greater than anything we can conjure up on our own, and it is in each of our best interests to find a way to stay connected with it for the rest of our days. Connecting with your intuition requires regular periods of solitude, quiet contemplation, and ridding oneself of impurities (physiological and mental). I don’t know about you, but it is a struggle to find the energy to keep yourself pure in this impure world. That being said, I’m still gonna try like hell and I hope you’ll join me. From all of us here at chubaoyolu.org. Please take care of yourselves and each other.
Oyolu B.C. Ph.D.
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